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Chandler House, seen from Walden Street in Williamstown, is slated to come down as part of a building project to support the programming of Williams College's Davis Center.

Williamstown Historical Commission Invokes 6-Month Delay for Buildings' Demolition

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's Historical Commission on Monday imposed a six-month delay on the demolition of a pair of Williams College buildings slated to come down as part of the Davis Center's building project.
In the interim, the college agreed to work with the commission to document the histories of Chandler House and Hardy House and to advertise their availability to anyone who wants to preserve the structures in whole or in part.
College officials who appeared before the panel at its virtual meeting said the school was prepared to wait out the maximum 12-month delay allowed under the town's bylaw without an impact on the building project's timeline.
After Community Development Director Andrew Groff advised the commission that, in recent years, the body had ordered shorter delays, Nate Budington suggested a six-month delay each of the structures, which the panel found to be "preferably preserved."
Members of the commission had a couple of questions for Williams' project manager, Scott Henderson, who attended Monday's meeting with the school's general counsel, Jamie Art.
Henderson explained that neither Chandler House nor Hardy House fits into the programmatic needs of the Davis Center, which currently operates in Hardy and two adjacent buildings: Janess House and Rice House.
"The Davis Center over the past years has expanded as the college looks to diversify its student body," Henderson said of Williams' former Multicultural Center. "At this point, there are hundreds of students who would use a facility like this and hundreds who cannot use a facility like this [due to space issues]. Occupancy loads are typically under 40 for a building like this. They quickly run out of space."
After two years of study, a committee of students, faculty and staff determined part of the solution is to expand Rice House into the current footprint of Hardy House, which will create programming space for up to 100 people, Henderson said.
Another part of the solution involves removing Chandler House to the south of Janess, creating space for an accessible path from Walden Street and space for outdoor programming by the Davis Center.
"The interior spaces we're trying to accommodate for programming, we couldn't find the right fit in Chandler," Handerson said. "It's residential space. Chandler, in particular, has a smaller footprint. It's down to 1,200 square feet.
"A big part of the program included outdoor space. Where the site is now, it's very narrow -- pinched between the backs of Spring Street properties [to the east] and the new science center. That creates constraints on the site. … In the end, [removing Chandler] worked in favor of accommodating a lot more outdoor activity -- a different type of programming but programming that is very important to the center we're working with."
While full-scale relocation of either building is on the table, that kind of expensive move may not be the most likely scenario. Commissioner Andrus Burr suggested that people may nevertheless be interested in saving architectural features of the structures.
"I'm thinking of things like there might be an entrance porch or a front door or something like that," Burr said. "Or possibly the frame of Hardy House. It's old enough it might have substantial timber framing that could be preserved for someone to use. That's assuming there aren't people interested in the entire building in either case."
Commissioner Pat Leach suggested that decorative elements like mantelpieces could be worth saving.
"I know when the Cole Porter house was taken down, a friend of mine has Cole Porter's mantelpiece, which is quite beautiful," Leach said. "I thought perhaps either of these buildings might have something equally admirable or almost as admirable."
No members of the public asked to address the commission during Monday's public hearing. Groff mentioned that the town did receive one letter about the college's demolition permit, which he passed along to the commissioners and college officials on Monday morning.

Tags: demolition,   historic buildings,   Williams College,   

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Four Running for Two Seats on Williamstown Select Board

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Four candidates have returned papers for two Select Board seats that will will be filled at May's annual town election.
Incumbent Andrew Hogeland and newcomers Stephanie Boyd, Andrea Bryant and Paul Harsch each completed papers with the required number of signatures before Tuesday's deadline.
The town clerk and board of registrars now have to certify the signatures on the nomination papers. And candidates have until Thursday, April 6, to withdraw their names before they are placed on the ballot.
The other three elected offices on the ballot for May have no contested races.
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